Adapting Home Environments for Older Adults

The use of Universal Design in housing construction or remodeling can increase the accessibility of residences.

Universal Design

The use of Universal Design in housing construction or remodeling can increase the accessibility of residences. Universal design in homes provides features to accommodate the needs and maximize independence of people of all ages and abilities. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) provides online resources on design for independent living, an Aging-in-Place Remodeling Checklist, and information on Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists in Delaware.

Universal design is being promoted in Delaware. The Delaware Housing Coalition and the Housing Sub-Committee of the Governor’s Commission on Community-Based Alternatives for People with Disabilities issued a report on Community and Choice: Housing Needs for People with Disabilities in Delaware. Because 30 percent of Delaware’s population will be over 60 by 2040, and many older adults will face long-lasting mobility impairments, the study incorporated recommendations to address the need for universally designed homes. In addition, the Delaware Disabilities Council has developed a Delaware Universal Design website and has produced an excellent video that highlights the benefits of universal design. For more information, explore these Accessibility Design Standards and Guidelines.


Visitable homes include features such as a zero-step entrance, wide interior doors and a half bathroom on the main floor. The campaign for visitability is also more widely accepted by home owners that do not yet have mobility restrictions but are willing to make adaptations to their homes in order to accommodate for others.

Use of Technology to Aid Independent Living

Use of technology is helping older adults lead healthier lives and maintain independence. An AARP Report states that high-speed internet access has become a vital tool for those who wish to remain in their homes as they age. Virtual Visits, using two-way video conferencing, allow aging populations to speak with specialists and general practitioners without leaving their homes, saving them time and travel costs. Chronic disease management has been aided through telehealth technology and home health monitoring. Monitoring and tracking daily measures of blood pressure or glucose levels can aid in the detection of irregularities. Medication optimization uses technology to manage prescriptions, dispensing, and tracking of medicine. New forms of assistive technologies are being used to help older adults with medical issues compensate for the loss of sensory, physical, and cognitive deficits. Finally, innovative “smart homes,” run using the internet, contain programmable sensors that can turn off the stove after a given period of time or even track when the medicine cabinet is opened, allowing people to remain safe in their homes as they age.

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